Budding city-based cinematographers are finding their feet up North.
Be it Auro and Amol’s tender reconciliation, captured by PC Sreeram, in Paa, or Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s desperate cries for help, shot by Santosh Sivan, in Raavan, artistes from the South have made heads turn with their art. Most of your favourite Bollywood films owe their stunning visuals and aesthetic brilliance to city-based cinematographers. Taking a cue from forerunners like Sivan, a new crop is now making their way North and landing plum projects. Four young lensmen speak to us about their journey and the road ahead.
If you watched Saala Khadoos (or Irudhi Suttru), R Madhavan’s Hissar-to-Chennai road trip on the Bullet must have given you major travel goals. Meet the man behind the carefully-captured scenes, Sivakumar Vijayan, who also worked on the recent Tamil hit, Iraivi. The Satyajit Ray Film and Television graduate says, “I had worked on a film called Vidiyum Munn. Director Sudha Kongara saw it and liked my work, and called me to work on Saala Khadoos.” The city-based lensman says that doing the Madhavan-starrer was a dream come true because Alaipayuthey (2000)—with its introductory scene of the actor riding a bike—had inspired him to follow his passion. “I tried to recreate the bike scene from Alaipayuthey while shooting Madhavan’s bike ride in this film, and 16 years of my hard work flashed before my eyes,” he shares. Vijayan, who is working on Mudi Sooda Mannan, Vikram Prabhu’s next, says that the main difference between Bollywood and Tamil Cinema is the budget and reach of the film.
Baar Baar Dekho might not have been a winner at the box office, but the futuristic-yet-aesthetically stunning London and Thailand landscapes left us in awe. For the film, assisting Ravi K Chandran, director of photography, was 29-year-old Coimbatore man, Ragul Dharuman. The cinematographer, who graduated from the Film and Television Institute of Tamil Nadu before joining Chandran’s team, has worked in two Tamil films, Madha Yaanai Koottam and Idam Porul Yaeval. Talking about the differences between the two industries and the challenges he faced to reach where he is, he says, “In Bollywood, we get enough time and resources for preparation—right from deciding the location to the colour schemes. That is lacking in the Tamil film industry.” Dharuman feels that a cinematographer’s journey is all about how much he learns on the job, which takes time, patience and a lot of creativity. The city-based cinematographer adds that he will soon start working on an untitled Bollywood film, but wants to keep things under wraps for the moment.
An amateur short film made by a group of friends just out of school, found praise from cinematographer Ravi K Chandran. Since then, Danush Bhaskar, one of the members of the group, has gone on to assist the stalwart in Baar Baar Dekho and a number of advertising campaigns down South. A visual communication graduate from Loyola College, Bhaskar says, “Most of the big technical names up North are all from our industries— from Santosh Sivan to PC Sreeram and Resul Pookuty. They have a lot of respect for our craft and the way we go about our art.” The son of renowned photographer and cinematographer, AV Bhaskar, the city-based technician swears by Bollywood’s work ethic and says, “There’s money up North, so your creative boundaries aren’t constrained. Hence we see better looking products.” Bhaskar’s forthcoming projects
include Ok Jaanu with Mani Ratnam.
Santhana Krishnan R
The ‘bad boy’ without any interest in academics, Santhana Krishnan R found his forte at the age of 15. Today, he is one of the most promising names in the industry. A filmmaking diploma holder from Singapore’s Lasalle College of Arts, the son of ace cinematographer Ravi K Chandran says that being well-connected in the industry is just the first step. “My first job was easy, thanks to my family, but from there on I was on my own. Making a career is entirely on you,” adds the 23-year-old. He observes that the work in Bollywood is much neater because of equal attention paid to production design and costumes. “Cinematography isn’t about fancy frames as much as it is about telling a story right,” says the artiste, who debuted with the short film, Interior Cafe Nights starring Naseeruddin Shah and Shernaz Patel and then landed Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Goliyon ki Rasleela Ram Leela, among other big films. Krishnan is now working on web series for both Balaji Telefilms and Panorama Studios.
There is abundant talent from the state that is crossing borders and boundaries because of artistic inclinations and a ‘work is worship’ attitude. It’s an ideal time for artistes with a vision
—Santosh Sivan, director-cinematographer
—Saloni Sinha & Lavanya Lakshminarayanan